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Maddon's got a new ride

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Calling it a bit of a "new-contract present" to himself, Rays manager Joe Maddon on Wednesday showed off his new ride - a 1956 Chevy BelAir.

Maddon bought the car in Arizona, had it restored and updated, and delivered to the Charlotte Sports Park. It has air-conditioning, so he said you'll see him driving it around Tampa and St. Petersburg once the season starts.

Maddon said he was looking for a Charger, Roadrunner or Barracuda, but couldn't find one he liked so instead picked this one over a '57 Nomad. "When I drive this it's pretty quick when it starts up, and I love the color and I love the interior,'' he said. Maddon already has two restored convertibles - a '67 Galaxy and a '72 Chevelle.

Maddon said his wife, Jaye, endorsed the purchase, which she named Bella.  "She was all for it,'' he said. "My wife is kind of like a guy sometimes - she likes big flat-screen TVs, she likes watching football on Sundays, she likes fast cars, she used to drink martinis, though she kind of toned that down a bit. She's got a lot of great man-cave qualities about her.''

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Video: Marc Topkin's daily recap.

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Joe Maddon's post-workout press conference.

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Opening Day sold out

The Rays have sold out their April 6 opener vs. the Yankees.

The team said only scattered single tickets remain.

It is believed to be the third earliest they have done so.

"It's nice to know, it's heartening that we sold out Opening Day in February,'' principal owner Stuart Sternberg said. "Thank God for the 29th.''

 

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Live from Port Charlotte: Team photo day

The Rays were here early at Charlotte Sports Park, all smiles and ready to get their photos taken.

Manager Joe Maddon said there would be an abbreviated workout today, planning to keep them off their feet in the long week. There will still be live batting practice sessions, with LHP David Price, RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis (along with RHP Fernando Rodney) set to throw beginning at 10:35.  The workout should end around 11:40 a.m.

One pitcher who won't be throwing live BP is LHP Matt Moore, who continues to get cautiously held back due to a mild lower abdominal strain.

-- JOE SMITH

joesmith@tampabay.com

 

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Video: Marc Topkin's daily recap.

Spring Training news from Port Charlotte.

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Maddon: Moore injury "not a concern," Scott to miss first 3-4 exhibitions

Rays manager Joe Maddon continued to reiterate LHP Matt Moore's abdominen strain is not a concern, they're just being overcautious with him.

"It's an over-conservative thing we're doing right now," Maddon said. "I really believe the next day or two, he should be fine."

Maddon also said DH/1B Luke Scott (shoulder) will not play in the first 3-4 exhibition games, as he continues to recover from surgery.

"The priority with a guy like him is to be ready April 6," Maddon said.

Maddon was impressed with both RHP Matt Bush and RHP Jeff Niemann in their live batting practice sessions. Maddon continues to like Bush's delivery, and stuff, seeing his breaking ball today.

"His breaking ball is pretty advanced for this part of camp already," Maddon said. 'That, and i like the way he's dealing with everything. Here's a young man that's gotten a second chance and he's done a lot of good with it. It's impressive to watch."

Niemann, who turned 29 today, had a scare during his live BP session, with Sean Rodriguez ripping a line drive up the middle to the left of the protective screen. Niemann quickly ducked out of the way.

"That was almost the worst birthday present, ever," Niemann said. …

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Video: Stuart Sternberg from Port Charlotte

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg arrives at camp.

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Sternberg: "Pretty certain" Tampa Bay area can be viable long term

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg spoke somewhat optimistically about the future of the franchise during his appearance at spring training today.

Sternberg said he was pleased with the work of Chuck Sykes and the Tampa Bay Partnership to increase the level of conversation about the stadium situation, though he would like there to be more, and said he was "pretty certain" the team can succeed long-term in the Tampa Bay market.

"I read some things that characterized that I might not believe that to be the case, and there's nothing further from the truth,'' he said.

Sternberg cited the team's hefty (and somewhat unexpected) increase in payroll, from $41-million last season to around $65-million this year, and said: "It shows the faith that we have in this market. I'm optimistic and my belief since day one is that it can and it will work in this market. We've got more challenges ahead of us, and we've got things to do. But I'm certain - if I didn't think it would work, we wouldn't be spending what we're spending here to win. I think the winning and the continued winning and the continued success gives us the best chance to ultimately put us in a position to have this sustainable.''  …

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Moore likely to miss second scheduled live BP session

Rays lefthander Matt Moore (lower abdominal strain) is feeling better, but not enough to where he will throw today, and admits he'll likely miss his second scheduled live batting practice session Wednesday.

Moore said if he does throw Wednesday, it'll be to play catch.

"It's (frustrating)," Moore said. "But, at the same time, I'm happy my arm is healthy and my legs are feeling good. It's a little hiccup that will be cleared up, not sure how much time, but hopefully it's not any more than it needs to be."

Moore first felt the strain in Friday's bullpen session, and while he hasn't been throwing since, he's been participating in all the other drills and stretches. Moore, baseball's top prospect, is expected to be part of the Rays rotation this season.

"What's funky is that I'm running around, doing all the drills, bending over, doing all my rotations and it's fine," Moore said. "It's that coming down motion that if I was to get violent with it right now, I may feel it again. But doing nice and easy stretching, no pain. It's just when I get into that place where I provoke it, it's usually when I'm going downhill... …

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Live from Port Charlotte

The Rays are back at it today for another workout, with another round of pitchers set to throw live batting practice.

RHP Jeff Niemann, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Alex Cobb - as well as RHP Matt Bush - will face hitters starting around 11 a.m. here at Charlotte Sports Park.

As reported yesterday, LHP David Price will start the team's first exhibition game Saturday against the Twins. One thing to watch for today is how LHP Matt Moore is feeling, with his mild lower abdominal strain getting better each day.

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg is expected to make an appearance here today, we'll keep you posted on what he says.

-- JOE SMITH

joesmith@tampabay.com

 

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Scott brings spears, Lee shows dance moves

The Rays get a lot of work done in spring training, but they have their fun, too.

After noting that prospect SS Hak-Ju Lee seemed a little shy in his first few days of camp, the Rays decided to get him more involved in his first big-league camp. RHP James Shields had heard that Lee did an elaborate dance in the dugout before games in the minors, so Monday he called out Lee  - a 21-year-old South Korean - before the workout to perform for the whole squad.

“He kind of got blindsided,’’ Shields said. “He’s pretty good. He pulled some Michael Jackson moves on us. I’ve never anybody do the moonwalk in spikes.’’

Also, 3B coach Tom Foley was wearing a modified jersey, with his name FO-LEE. Foley, who is part Japanese, Filipino and Hawaiian, showed it to Lee, who said, “I like it.’’

Meanwhile, new DH brought the two 7 ½-foot spears that he has used to kill wild pigs to the clubhouse, showing them off to inquiring teammates (and reporters).  “Guys were asking me about them,’’ he said. “Take a look, see what you think, come out (hunting) if you want. We may go out again this weekend.’’

 

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Video: Marc Topkin's daily recap.

Spring training news from Port Charlotte, FL.

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Live from Port Charlotte: Price to start Saturday

LHP David Price will start the Rays exhibition opener on Saturday against the Twins in Fort Myers.

Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays will use a six-man rotation through the spring, allowing them to get James Shields, Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann all stretched out, then get to the send of the spring and decide.

Maddon singled out LHP J.P. Howell for his pitching today, saying he looked sharper and threw better today than at any time last spring.

Maddon said RHPs Fernando Rodney, Dane De La Rosa and Ricky Orta also were impressive.

He also complimented the position players for their intensity in going through bunt defense and other drills.

 

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Moore out with "mild lower abdominal strain"

Rookie LHP Matt Moore will indeed miss his scheduled batting practice session today due to what the Rays are calling "a mild lower abdoninal strain.''

Moore said it has been bothering him since Friday, when it popped up during his second bullpen session of the spring, and "it feels like a sore muscle.''

Moore said the discomfort is in the middle of his abdomen, just below his belly button, and he notices it only when he throws. He said it does not seem related at all to the oblique muscles.

Moore played catch at 60 feet on Saturday and 75 feet on Sunday but won't throw at all today to see how it responds. He said it was "a possibility" he could be back on the mound Wednesday for what would be next scheduled session. If it does, there conceivably would be no impact on his availability to start the season. If he misses more time, there's a chance he might not be ready as the Rays are sure to be cautious with their prized rookie.

"I don't feel like it's a major setback just because I told (the athletic training staff) and I threw the next couple days,'' Moore said. "If it was something major I would have shut it down and just been like, "Hey, this is it for right now.'' …

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